Joyce Napurrula-Schroeder was taken from Phillip Creek, north of Tennant Creek, in 1947 with 15 other children, and placed in the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin. She was not quite 2 years old.  

Joyce says she was sexually abuse

Joyce Napurrula-Schroeder was taken from Phillip Creek, north of Tennant Creek, in 1947 with 15 other children, and placed in the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin. She was not quite 2 years old.


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In the Northern Territory, between 1911 and the 1960’s, thousands of “half-caste” children were removed under policies created by the Commonwealth Government and and placed in government and church-run missions throughout the country. Family connections were severed, languages lost, physical, mental, and sometimes sexual abuse occurred. These children were made wards of the state until they were 18, then cast off, often without the education or social skills needed to build a quality life for themselves in the white man’s world, to which they were expected to assimilate.

The Aboriginal Ordinances of 1911 and 1918, and the subsequent Welfare Ordinance enacted in 1957, made the removals legal under Australian law, protecting the Commonwealth Government from any wrong doing in courts to date.

Some found their roots. Most never saw their families again. Land rights and royalties that would have been their birth rights have been lost. Many spent the majority of their adult lives straddling white Australia and aboriginal Australia, never being fully accepted by either. Funding has been provided for healing foundations and services to reconnect family members, but many feel that there should have been personal compensation for abuses endured and loss of culture and family.

Of the roughly 2500 children taken in the Northern Territory (a figure widely debated and difficult to prove exactly), less than 300 are still alive. These are some of their stories.

Kenny Windley was removed from his mother as a baby and taken to the Retta Dixon Home, then shipped up to Garden Point on Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands. “We had no choice, couldn't do anything, the parents couldn't do a

Kenny Windley was removed from his mother as a baby and taken to the Retta Dixon Home, then shipped up to Garden Point on Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands. “We had no choice, couldn't do anything, the parents couldn't do anything either,” says Windley.

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Nicholas Flowers was born 100km east of Alice Springs in the old mining town of Arltunga. He was removed from his mother before his first birthday and sent to the Catholic mission called Garden Point on Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands.

“They’d strip us and flog us with a sewing machine belt… them old Singer sewing machines. The priest had one of them and used to flog us naked,” says Flowers.

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Garden Point Catholic Mission half-yearly return document.

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Anne Elizabeth Lane was one of the 16 children taken from Phillip Creek in 1947 to the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin. She was about 5-years-old.

“There was a lot of abuse… getting hidings… If you kept crying the hidings got harder and harder, and you learn to stifle your cry… It’s something you’ll never get over,” says Lane about the whole experience, “it’s just too much to comprehend.”

Lane passed away in March, 2017.

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Alfred Calma was born in Darwin in 1953. He was sent to Garden Point on Melville Island when he was four years old. His sisters were all sent to the mission as well. He says he was sexually abused on multiple occasions by older boys at the mission, and by male staff when he was around twelve years old. “I went through so much in that one year.” He left the mission when he was 14, sent to a cattle station to work as a stockman. “They probably removed the ones who had been abused.”

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November 24, 2015
Maxine Kunde is second generation stolen. Her mother was taken in the 1920’s, put into the Kahlin Compound in Darwin, and moved from institution to institution in the years to follow. Maxine was born in 1948 in Darwin. When her father di

Maxine Kunde is second generation stolen. Her mother was taken in the 1920’s, put into the Kahlin Compound in Darwin, and moved from institution to institution in the years to follow. Maxine was born in 1948 in Darwin. “I was standing around playing marbles, and my two older sisters… watched these two people get out of a car… and my sister said to me ‘run!’… but the welfare lady had me.” “(They) never taught us about anything, birds and the bees, nothing, just religion,” recalls Maxine. “When I was 15, I ended up getting pregnant. For a little girl, I couldn’t understand what was happening here, and you don’t know nothing… and of course they kick you off the island, and just threw me into Darwin.” Her daughter was removed from her and eventually fostered to a family in Sydney. She didn’t reconnect with her until she had grown up.

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A poem by Luke Morcom

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November 23, 2015
Maureen Hunter was born to a Kayteye mother and spent her early childhood at Neutral Junction Station near Barrow Creek. She was taken during the evacuation of the north in the war years and sent to South Australia. After the war, she wa

Maureen Hunter was born to a Kayteye mother and spent her early childhood at Neutral Junction Station near Barrow Creek. She was taken during the evacuation of the north in the war years and sent to South Australia. After the war, she was sent up to Garden Point on Melville Island. “Everything was new, I wasn’t use to the high spear grass… I missed them (her family), but you soon get used to it, and there were others to keep you busy. We all got together and made ourselves as family. We still treat each other as family, as brothers and sisters today.”

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“To be quite honest, if we didn’t have each other, I don't think many of us would have survived" says Nora Kempster. "We used each other to council each other, just sitting around talking about things, how we felt…the anger… just spending time together and talking about it and reflecting on a lot of those things helped us heal within ourselves."

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October 26, 2015
Zita Wallace was born in the bush at Arltunga, east of Alice Springs around 1939. She was forcibly removed at the age of eight. “They chased after the truck when they realized we were going, and we were all crying in the back…. we were to

Zita Wallace was born in the bush at Arltunga, east of Alice Springs around 1939. She was forcibly removed at the age of eight. “They chased after the truck when they realized we were going, and we were all crying in the back…. we were told we were going shopping in Alice Springs and we never returned. There were seven of us put in the back of truck.” She remembers saying in her native tongue at the time, “all the trees are running away from us,” as she looked out the slits in the back of the moving truck.

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Northern Territory historical registrar document

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Audrey Melaney’s mother was removed and placed in the Bungalow, a government run compound for “half-caste” aboriginal children in Alice Springs. When she left, she could neither read nor write. “She was lost in Alice,” says Audrey.

After Audrey was born, her mother could not care for her or her siblings, and signed documents confirming that Audrey was part aboriginal to get her into St. Mary’s Hostel, an institution for “half caste” children.

“My mom got removed, she became displaced, she became destitue, we had to get put in the home, so we really lost out. We’re sorta really a lost generation too.She was stolen, and all that really affects me, my kids, my grandkids, that trans-generational trauma.

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“I was one week old when I was taken away from Borroloola, from my mother, and my father, he was alive at the time, he was 67 years old,” says Luke Morcom. He was taken to Garden Point on Melville Island where he spent the first twelve years of his life.

“They robbed us. I feel angry. I feel angry about the fact that I can’t speak my mother's language, and the fact that by rights in my tradition, I should be a lawman, or an important person in the clan group… I've missed out on that, especially the stories… I try to turn my anger into something positive like writing poetry... I can read it at the school. I told kids how I feel… it's recorded, it's in writing… so other kids can relate to it.”

Money the government allocated to help members of the Stolen Generation to find and connect with family was believed by many to be too little too late. “What's the point of taking me to my mothers grave? I'm not interested…”

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Birth Certificate of a member of the Stolen Generation

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Eileen Cummings was born in central Arnhem Land in 1943. She was raised on a cattle station where her mother and stepfather worked. “I was as happy as anything,” she recalls. “We weren't in poverty or anything, and I had the best home there. I had the run of the cattle station.”

“When they came to take me, I thought they were just taking me for a ride in the truck, so I jumped in the truck thinking I was really good, I thought I’d go for this wonderful ride. And then as it started to get dark, I realized that I was going further and further away from my mother. And I started to cry, and I was crying all the way.”

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November 27, 2015
Lorna Cubillo was removed from Banka Banka Station and taken to Seven Mile Creek. She was moved to Phillip Creek several years later, and eventually to Darwin to live at the Retta Dixon Home with 15 others in 1947. While there, she exper

Lorna Cubillo was removed from Banka Banka Station and taken to Seven Mile Creek. She was moved to Phillip Creek several years later, and eventually to Darwin to live at the Retta Dixon Home with 15 others in 1947. While there, she experienced physical and emotional abuse, as well as sexual harassment. She also lost her aboriginal language, culture and family connections. In 1999, Lorna and Pete Gunner, a part-aboriginal man who was placed in St. Mary’s Hostel in Alice Springs in the 1950’s, took the Commonwealth to Federal Court, a case that would set the bar for future lawsuits by members of the Stolen Generation in the Northern Territory. They lost. Of her testimony in court she says, “I told the story how it was... and it has effected me, but at least it was a release... like opening the flood gate and letting it all go. All the ugly things came out of my mouth.”

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Excerpts from Connie’s unpublished autobiographical manuscript, Motherless Child
Page 5
The day the Police arrived at Adder, Dad and the men were out mustering the cattle’s, it was quite a while since they had last brought the cattle’s into the yard for branding. Only my Mother, Granny, my Brother and myself were home. As we looked a cloud of dust appeared in the far distance, thinking it was a “whirlwind we do have occasional ones”, but it wasn’t to be, instead it was the Police coming to get my Brother and myself. He pulled up at the homestead and asked if Dad was home, Mum told him Dad had gone mustering, so he grabbed my Brother and me by the wrist, my Brother tried to pull away, he had a firm grip on him, the Police then walked towards the car, holding us with a firm grip, Mother begged the Police not to take us away from her, she even got down on her knees begging and begging but in vain, the Police pushed us into the car and drove off, when I turned to look, there was my Mother still down on her knees, the scene that I saw broke my heart as though somebody has pierced my heart with a sharp knife, Mother down on her knees and Granny frail old woman put her arms around her Daughter trying to comfort her both crying, tears streaking down my cheeks as we drove away, and that scene has remained with me as I was growing up, it was the last time I’ve seen them and they were never to be seen again.

Connie passed away in December 2015.

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Harold Furber was born in Alice Springs in 1952. He was sent to the Methodist mission on Croker Island with his younger sister, while his eldest sister was left in Alice Springs.

“Can someone please explain if this was all for our good, how can you keep splitting families up?… Of course you never get an answer… I reckon I was forgotten.”

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November 11, 2015
Shirley Lewis' great grandmother, grandmother, and mother all had siblings and children removed and placed in missions. She eventually connected with some of her lost family decades later.

"...Seeing a family member you haven't seen for

 Shirley Lewis' great grandmother, grandmother, and mother all had siblings and children removed and placed in missions. She eventually connected with some of her lost family decades later. "Seeing a family member you haven't seen for a long time... even you didn't know them... there's a connection there and you hug, kiss, cry... everything you normally do with family you haven’t seen for a while."

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A letter written to a member of the Stolen Generation

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November 6, 2015
Margaret Furber was born in Alice Springs in 1947. She was placed in St. Mary’s Hostel on the outskirts of town because her mother was not able to take care of her. Her siblings were all sent to the Tiwi Islands. She says the separation w

Margaret Furber was born in Alice Springs in 1947. She was placed in St. Mary’s Hostel on the outskirts of town because her mother was not able to take care of her. Her siblings were all sent to the Tiwi Islands. She says the separation was “very traumatic.” “I feel very much that I can’t connect properly with my family like I would have growing up as brother and sister. I see other families, and how other families act, brothers and sisters, and look at the way they love each other and joke and carry on… we can’t do that, because we got no history together, because we were all taken and separated in different ways.”

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